THE SNOW GLOBE
The strong waves crashing against the shore with the uneven landscape of tall jagged grey black rocks, was a sign that autumn was approaching winter and Christmas. The harsh cold wind made it difficult to take a walk on the empty beaches. On certain days it was better to remain indoors and listen to what the weather was doing than brave going out. On such days the small coastal village was empty. Anything related to the summer season was shut up till the following spring. The caravan site which overlooked the beach was empty, there was no sign of human habitation, nor the slightest sign that anyone had ever been there. When the local council cleaners had finished, there was already a forlorn look about the place, but when the rain and wind came it gained a desolate air.
The local inhabitants were few and had grown accustomed to being overtaken by intruders during the warmer months. Those with shops had put away warm weather goods, their shelves were then filled with Christmas fare, and the butchers offered turkeys for sale if an order was placed early. After Halloween and all the pumpkins had been sold, a fir tree market with holly and mistletoe was set up near the florist's in the High Street. Inside the florist's, Christmas table centres with candles were on sale, as well as wreaths for the front doors. The sight of the winter plants and their perfume helped to make summer a distant memory. As the Christmas season made its coming presence stronger, with red and gold trimmings everywhere and lit up trees and houses, people began to feel lighter hearted.
Alexandra was seven years old when the Christmas she would never forget occurred. She lived with her mother and, when her father wasn't away working, him too. As an only child, Alexandra was the centre of attention, although the little family was not flush with money. That was the problem with the coastal resorts, that in the winter months some of the population had to leave to find work in order to maintain their families. Christmas was the one time when money was never mentioned, and no child would go without. In Alexandra's living-room was a large tree, she and her mother, Della, would decorate on Christmas Eve.
But long before that day arrived Della went shopping for presents for Alexandra.
"Have you any ideas what you might like for presents this year?" Della asked her.
"I like many things, but not anything in particular. I'd like a new bicycle but my old one is still big enough for me. Mummy, if I see something, I'll let you know. Is that all right?"
"Of course it is. Now don't you fret, you know you'll get something nice," and with those words Della went into the kitchen to make the dinner.
One Saturday, Della and Alexandra were out shopping in the nearest large town. It was quite an eye opener for both mother and daughter with the variety of shops and goods on sale. They took their time just strolling around the Christmas market stalls, and then later on, after a quick lunch in a restaurant, Della and Alexandra went for a walk along the High Street to see if there was anything of interest for them.
Alexandra had stopped walking, and was staring in a shop window that was full of different ornaments made of glass. Among all the lovely goods, were some snow globes. "Mummy, can we go inside and have a look?" Alexandra tugged her mother's hand.
"Yes, of course. Have you seen something you like?" Della asked her daughter.
"I'm not sure yet, Mummy," Alexandra said, opening the door.
A shop assistant appeared from behind a curtain made up of long glass trailers. As she passed through the curtain there was a gentle sound of tinkling. Both mother and daughter stared in amazement at the figure that approached them. "Good afternoon. My name's Faye. Is there anything I can interest you in?"
"Good afternoon. My daughter, for some reason only known to her, wanted to enter your shop," Della said.
"What is it that has captured your imagination, young lady?"
Alexandra said without hesitation, "I'd like to look at the snow globes, please."
"As you can see, they are all set out on tables around the shop, but there are other glass objects, too," Faye told the little girl.
The entire shop shimmered with glass. Della was afraid to move in case she touched something and knocked it over. Alexandra also moved cautiously from table to table and didn't look just at the snow globes but also at the other glass ornaments.
"If you see something special, let me know and I'll get it for you, so that you can take a closer look at it," Faye said to Alexandra.
The snow globes were varied in size and content. Alexandra took her time. The majority were of Christmas scenes showing Santa, reindeer, Christmas trees, and angels, there were also some depicting Nativity scenes. The musical ones rang out the most well known carols and songs. Apart from the traditional type snow, there were snow globes with glitter falling inside. The best ones were those brightly coloured, and they were the ones that Alexandra was drawn to. Della sat down on a chair and waited for Alexandra to either choose something or ask to leave the shop.
Meanwhile Faye asked Della, "Would you like a cup of tea? I don't see your daughter in a hurry. She seems to be making a dedicated examination of the snow globes."
"Yes, I'd love a tea, thank you," Della said.
Alexandra was totally unaware of anyone else being near her, she was on a mission to get something she really wanted for Christmas. Her mother drank the tea and stared at the darkening street through the window. People were walking by on both sides of the street, and some were laden down with packets and others with adornments for their houses and trees. In spite of that, however, there was not much Christmas spirit in evidence.
"Mummy, I've seen a snow globe I like. Can I have a look at it, please?"
Faye heard what Alexandra had said, and asked her which one she wanted to see. Alexandra went to the long table that was at the back of the shop where the biggest snow globes were on view. "I'd like to see that one," Alexandra said to Faye, and pointed to an old-fashioned looking Santa, with a staff in his left hand and a lantern in his right hand. The snow was both white and glittery. Alexandra was not so much excited as intense. There was something about the snow globe that deeply attracted her. In later years she would say it had been the lantern, and then the staff, but whatever it was, Alexandra's face was illuminated on staring into the snow globe. The Santa was depicted as more like Old Father Time than the red-cheeked overweight Santa everyone is used to seeing. Faye offered Alexandra a chair to sit on and then placed the snow globe nearer, so that the little girl was able to examine it better.
The two women could see that Alexandra was absorbed in the scene inside the snow globe. Alexandra shook it and the white and the glittery snows sprinkled down over Santa, the lantern gave the atmosphere of authenticity, the staff made him more of a real person. Altogether everything was as if reality had shrunk what had once been a living person.
While Alexandra was occupied in gazing into the snow globe, Faye said to Della, "Are you going to purchase the snow globe? If you are, your daughter doesn't need to know about it, as I have duplicates of all the goods in the shop."
"Yes, I'll take it while she isn't looking at us," Della replied.
Faye went into the stock room at the back of the shop and came back with a square box. On one side there was a label showing a photo of the old fashioned Santa. Faye took it out of the box to show Della, and then replaced it in the box. Faye then wrapped the snow globe in gift paper and stuck a Christmas sticker to finish off the wrapping. The precious parcel then went into a plastic bag, and into Della's bag. As far as they knew, Alexandra was unaware of what had occurred.
Della called to Alexandra, "Come on now, we have other shops to visit before heading for home."
Alexandra gave the snow globe one last hard stare and then said, "Coming, Mummy. I really like that snow globe," looking up at Della.
"Do you really," Della said.
They walked along the High Street once again, staring into the shop windows. Della saw a red dress for Alexandra to wear on Christmas Day in one of the shop windows, and they went into the shop and got it for her. Alexandra never said much, and that afternoon even less, after discovering the snow globe.
Christmas Eve came and Della, with Alexandra's help, decorated the tree. Brendan, Della's husband and Alexandra's father, managed to get home in time to help.
"Thank goodness you're here. She would have been so disappointed if you'd been held up because of the bad weather," Della told Brendan.
"It wasn't easy. We had to finish the job first, so that we deserved the overtime we had put in. Now all of us who were working will have a happier Christmas. How's Alexandra? Where is she?"
"I'm here, Daddy. I've been helping Mummy with the tree."
Brendan picked his daughter up and kissed her on both cheeks. "Looking forward to tomorrow?"
"Yes, I am. Very much," Alexandra said, jumping onto the floor.
Brendan turned to Della, and asked her, "Who's coming tomorrow?"
"My parents are coming tomorrow and two of your elderly aunts. On Boxing Day your parents are coming with your sister and her two boys."
"Hm. That should be good company for Alexandra," Brendan said to his wife.
That night, snow fell silently over the beach and the village. The following morning in every house where there were children, shouts of delight could be heard. After breakfast Alexandra was allowed to open her presents. She made a show of leaving the snow globe to last. She knew her mother would never disappoint her at Christmas. Brendan had no knowledge of the snow globe and was puzzled about what was in the box. Alexandra removed the snow globe, stared, and then shook it till the glittery white snow rained down onto Santa. "Daddy, don't you think it's beautiful?"
Brendan stared hard at the snow globe, and said to Della, "Don't you think it's too good for such a young child?"
"No, I don't. Anyhow, she won't always be seven years old. If you turn the base you might just find something nice inside it," Della told Alexandra.
Alexandra did her best to turn the base but it was too tight for her, so Brendan did it for her. The base opened and, to Alexandra's great joy, it was full of small sweets and chocolates.
"Do we get one, or are they all for you?" Brendan asked laughing.
"You and Mummy can have one each," Alexandra responded, enjoying the moment.
From then on the snow globe became a treasure trove of some very odd things. When Della lost an earring, Alexandra put the other one in the base of the snow globe just in case her mother found its pair. There was an old watch that had belonged to her grandfather but nobody wanted. Alexandra did. A pearl necklace was also stashed in it and some photos of Alexandra as she grew up. The snow globe was always in her bedroom, and not even her mother or her father ever thought of touching it.
During the long wintry nights, Alexandra, wearing her cosy pyjamas and in bed accompanied by a large collection of fluffy toys, switched off the light and lay back against the pillows and stared at the lantern hanging from Santa's right arm. The amber glow made her eyes heavy and she was soon fast asleep. The lantern kept on shining throughout the night.
A few years later, Alexandra was given an instamatic camera for her birthday. From that moment she became an ardent photographer. The best new photos went inside the snow globe, and some of the older ones were put into the box it came in. After school, as Alexandra walked home with her mother, she took photos of everything and everyone she saw. A lot of people said she should work for a newspaper or become a photographer.
One day when she was busy taking photographs she was under observation. On reaching home, Alexandra put that day's good photos inside the snow globe. Brendan was still an absent husband and father for a lot of the time, which meant that the house was empty all day, till Della and Alexandra arrived home at half past four after school.
Not long after she had been observed by the mystery man, Alexandra and her mother got home, and Della saw that the front door lock had been forced. She rang up the police on her mobile, and they waited till a police car came. The two policemen went inside the house first, and saw that it had been taken apart from top to bottom.
Della rang Brendan to tell him the bad news. Alexandra ran upstairs to make sure nothing had been stolen. Her bedroom was in a terrible mess, with everything on the floor. But nothing was broken, and the snow globe was in its usual place.
"Can you think of any reason anyone would want to search your house?" one of the policemen asked Della.
"No, I can't, and we have nothing to steal. We're not a rich family."
"You'd better call a locksmith and get some strong locks fitted on the front and back doors. If you like, we'll wait here with you," the second policeman said.
Della agreed, and then went into the kitchen to make the policemen a cup of tea each. Alexandra was in her bedroom tidying it up, and then went downstairs to join her mother and the policemen.
"Is everything all right?" one of the policemen asked her.
"Yes, thank you," said Alexandra. "I was worried that my snow globe might have been stolen."
"Have you got a nice snow globe?"
"Yes, I have. I'll get it for you."
Alexandra ran upstairs and came back shortly with the snow globe in her hands. The policemen stared at it and one of them said, "That's really nice. I've never seen one as nice as this. It looks unique, with a Santa dressed like that."
"Take a look at this," and Alexandra unscrewed the base and showed the two policemen the contents. "I took these photos a few days ago, and here are my other treasures," and Alexandra began entertaining them with all the details of her secrets.
The policemen took it in turns to examine the photos. "You're a good photographer. Do you think we might be able to borrow these photos, and we'll return them as soon as possible?"
"Yes, of course. But you won't forget will you?" Alexandra said anxiously.
Della said, "Please be careful with the photos. Everything she has means a lot to her, and more so the ones that she hides in the snow globe."
"Don't worry, we'll look after them." And the policemen left the house.
The next day on the television, radio, and in the local newspaper there was an article, about how Alexandra had helped the police catch a gang of thieves who had been attacking and robbing shops in and around the coastal resorts. There had been so many robberies that the police had been receiving a lot of flack from the public due to the lack of arrests.
Unwittingly, Alexandra had photographed a robbery being carried out. Better proof than that about the identities of the delinquents didn't exist. Alexandra was feted more than a beauty queen - and enjoyed every moment. The businessmen in the local towns gave her a large sum of money.
That night as she lay in her bed, Alexandra gazed at her snow globe, and said to it, "I never guessed how useful you would turn out to be!"